Gender roles affect the contemporary American public in various ways. Society reinforces the roles it learned from the previous generations, yet some things change over time. Nowadays, gender roles are becoming more fluid than they used to be, facing resistance from conservative groups and individuals. This essay discusses the Sociological, Medical, and Religious views on gender roles, and the author’s experience and reflections on the topic. It argues that Sociology is the most progressive in its approach to gender roles. At the same time, Medicine and Religious studies have recently begun realizing the significance of gender roles and the nuances of gender.
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Social Sciences: Sociology
Sociologists have a long history of studying and theorizing gender. Sociology highly theorizes gender roles and has accumulated a substantial body of gender-related works over the years. Apart from that, sociologists identify scripts, which “consist of the behaviors, rules, and expectations” linked to a more abstract role (Yarber & Sayad, 2018, p. 124). They may study the scripts associated with gender roles and their impact on various social groups.
Contemporary sociologists also research the connection between gender roles and social inequality, how society, culture, and media reinforce gender roles, and what effect it has on people’s lives. In sociological studies, scholars are more sensitive to gender than in other studies. They separate gender from sex and acknowledge cisgender and transgender identities. Sometimes sociological research of gender roles expands upon other disciplines, for instance, anthropology (Jackson et al., 2019). Sociologists may combine qualitative and quantitative analysis in their studies (Jackson et al., 2019). Overall, sociologists are among the most neutral and progressive scholars in recognizing the fluidity of the present-day gender roles, gender identity, and gender variance. By contrast, other disciplines might still use outdated terminology associated with the traditional gender roles of western societies.
Applied Sciences: Medicine
In contemporary medicine, sex, gender, and gender roles are important. However, historically gender and gender roles used to have low significance in health sciences until recently. Initially, most research studied the individuals of male sex since the scholars assumed the biological differences between cells of males and females were minimal (Mauvais-Jarvis et al., 2020). Later the health researchers realized that sex and gender affected the development of diseases.
At present, medical scientists study biological correlations between health and sex constituted by chromosomes and hormones. These include the different effects a treatment has on males and females, various manifestations of a disease according to sex (Mauvais-Jarvis et al., 2020). The scholars are also aware of the impact gender roles have on gender-related health-affecting behaviors, patients’ perception of disease and help-seeking behavior, and doctor’s decisions (Mauvais-Jarvis et al., 2020). It is important to note that studies that research how the patient’s gender affects the provider’s medical assumptions, decisions, and the suggested treatment exist in the intersection of medicine and sociology. In theory, health sciences have recently begun incorporating social science’s findings and considering the effect sex and gender have on an individual’s wellbeing.
Nevertheless, it seems that in most medical studies, the patients are still, at best, separated into two gender groups. Those can be tied to biological sex or male or female gender. Some scholars use the notions as synonyms, possibly focusing on cisgender individuals. However, it is clear that gender is not dichotomous, and such an approach ignores people with transgender identities, as well as the overall fluidity of gender.
Though, progressive scientists argue that incorporating gender in the studies can improve the diagnosis and treatment of the patients (Mauvais-Jarvis et al., 2020). When health sciences consider behaviors related to a social role, they can predict illnesses and conditions which are not predetermined by biological factors. Moreover, the researchers suggest including proper consideration of the patient’s gender in elaborating individual treatment (Bartz et al., 2020). Thus, treating gender roles as a social or environmental factor affecting human health is a relatively new but promising approach in medicine. Overall, the general health sciences, unlike sociology, rely on the traditional understanding of gender roles, except for a few progressive studies in recent years.
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Diversity Framework: Religion
Religious sciences usually focus their gender roles research on women and men and likely select cisgender individuals for such studies. However, progressive religious researchers may include “woman, man, other, refused” options for the question of gender in their surveys (Shults et al., 2020, p. 28). One of the topics of interest for religious scholars is “the gender gap in religiosity” (Li et al., 2020, p. 289; Schnabel, 2018). It seems that various scholars attempt to explain why more women are drawn to religion than men, yet men have more power in religious systems.
Religious scholars sometimes borrow from sociology to study the effect religion as a social and structural system has on men and women (Thomson et al., 2020). There is also a sub-field of religious studies interested in sexuality and gender (Shults et al., 2020). Most scholars specializing in religious gender studies sub-field are young and identify as females (Shults et al., 2020, p. 35). Those researching gender and gender roles within religious studies bring diversity to the discipline.
My family is not very religious, and as a representative of a young generation, I am more progressive in terms of gender roles than the conservative religious people. My parents are moderate Christians, and they have sometimes cited the Bible in explaining gender roles. However, most of their arguments stemmed from the broader cultural and social context. In comparison, I have seen devoted church-going Christians be stricter in imposing the submissive women’s role and the man’s position as the head of the home. Notably, these binary rules cannot be applied to same-sex couples.
There are many other religions besides Christianity in the U.S., and Islam is among the larger ones. Often people perceive Islam as discriminatory against women, but the outsiders know little of the gender roles set by the religion. It seems that at its core, the definition of gender roles in Islam is similar to the Christian one: women emotionally and physically care for the home, husband, and children, while a man is a provider for the whole family.
Apart from that, modern Islam is probably stronger linked to traditions than Christianity. The majority of American society is either Christian, secular, or in-between. Many Muslims follow the Islamic modesty rules, while only orthodox Christians do so. Muslim women report wearing a modest closing by choice and feel empowered by it (Patterson, 2020). Generally, the gender roles in Christianity and Islam are similarly patriarchal; the only difference is that Christianity is a dominant religion, while Islam is in the minority. Therefore, Christians might see their practices as a norm, yet view Muslim customs as discriminatory.
This research has helped me to gain valuable insights into the topics of gender and gender roles. For instance, I now realize that gender roles can have a significant impact on health. I did not know that before, because mainstream medical science has not recognized it yet. I understood that suppressing one’s gender to comply with the assigned one could lead to anxiety and other health issues. However, I did not think that cisgender people’s health was affected by the behaviors they performed within their gender roles.
I have also learned the details of various sociological gender theories while researching for this paper. They were not relevant for the assignment, but they broadened my understanding of the issue. Now I know that some view gender roles as a functionalist way to organize a society. Others argue that they serve to give non-verbal clues for human interactions. Yet, the most recent gender conflict theory disagrees with those mentioned above. I began to realize the role feminism played in raising the gender question.
I also noticed how disconnected the sciences are from one another. Maybe, sociology is linked to other social sciences and borrows from feminist theories, but health sciences almost entirely ignore the decades of sociological research. In my opinion, this is slowing our progress; therefore, scientists should engage in more interdisciplinary research. Apart from the scientific discoveries, I have learned a little about the Muslim’s lives thanks to the diversity framework requirement.
While working on this paper, I have acquired several research skills. First of all, I have trained to browse through a large pool of articles to find the ones applicable to my topic and angle of research. Moreover, I have pushed myself to include only the findings relevant to the assignment, and not to display all my knowledge in detail. I have also learned to divide my research paper into readable paragraphs according to their main idea. Additionally, it has been a helpful experience in terms of improving my analytical skills since it required comparing different perspectives.
In the future, I hope to employ my findings to grow as a person. I will do my best to stay open-minded about gender roles. Most people do not realize the stereotypes and scripts inherent in gender roles, but I will try to pay close attention to them. I hope to be mindful of gender fluidity and the difference between gender and sex when I conduct future research. I will also reflect on how gender roles shape my identity, biases, and interactions with other people.
Contemporary American society is moving away from traditional western gender roles. The scholars studying the community have recognized these changes and developed new terminology describing gender fluidity and the attributes of gender roles. However, other disciplines may be disconnected from sociological findings and theories. Within their narrow field, they reinforce the gender roles’ scripts and dichotomy inherited from the previous generations. Nonetheless, even within the disciplines dominated by an outdated view of gender and gender roles, young and progressive scholars who understand the current social reality create science’s sub-fields, linking them to sociology and gender studies. This approach is promising for marginalized groups and the cisgender majority since it aims at a nuanced understanding of people and the social context impacting them, their health, their beliefs, and other aspects of their lives.
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Jackson, C.A., Baldwin, A., Brents, B.G., & Maginn, P.J. (2019). EXPOsing men’s gender role attitudes as porn superfans. Sociological Forum, 34(2), 483-500. Web.
Li, Y., Woodberry, R., Liu, H., & Guo, G. (2020). Why are women more religious than men? Do risk preferences and genetic risk predispositions explain the gender gap? Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 59(1), 289-310. Web.
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Schnabel, L. (2018). More religious, less dogmatic: Toward a general framework for gender differences in religion. Social Science Research, 75, 58-72. Web.
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